preview

Retribution in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

Good Essays
Retribution in The Canterbury Tales

Retribution is essential to a balanced humanity, acting as an offset for immoral deeds. Although retribution remains a necessary part of existence, it can be circumvented through penance, as exemplified in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Upon entering the process of penance, the sinner must take the initial step and feel repentance for their immoral actions. However, without contrition, avoidance of punishment can only be achieved through a display cunning maneuvering, which then acts as redemption. Validated by the Miller's, Pardoner's, and Friar's Tales, retribution is administered to all sinners devoid of contrition, unless he possesses an unparalleled canniness.

In "The Pardoner's Tale", three drunkards portrayed as obtuse simpletons, ultimately decline penance through their lack of contrition, and thus receive a deathly consequence. Inebriated, "they started in their drunken rage/ Many and grisly were the oaths they swore,/ Tearing Christ's blessed body to a shred;/ 'If we can only catch him, Death is dead!'" (Chaucer 251). Their blasphemy towards Christ further diminishes the characters while their sense of logic is mocked - for the slaying of Death is impossible. Evident in their actions and declarations, the drunkards lack the mental acuity required to prevent them from retribution. Additionally, in their search for Death, they fail to recognize gold as the surrogate, and thus bypasses the offer of penance. Choosing to continue with their immoral subterfuges instead of apportioning the gold, they proceed closer towards retribution. Furthermore, when the yo...

... middle of paper ...

...r fate. For the medieval society, it preaches against the sins by exemplifying their consequences, with retribution often taking on the form death. However, it also offers hope after crime, and encourages the redemption of one's actions. This concept remains valid in today's society. Often dramatized in modern television, the cheating boyfriend is granted condonation only after a display of true-felt remorse. With her forgiveness, the penance is complete and retribution of losing his girlfriend is avoided. However, as a natural part of humanity, there must be exceptions. Rarely, a character may come along that possesses a canniness so unmatched that it acts as redemption for his sin, thus allowing him to evade the common fate. Nevertheless, retribution still serves as a warning for potential sinners.
Get Access